The Gambia-FGM

The Gambia Contemplates Reversal of Female Genital Mutilation Ban


The Gambia has taken a significant step towards overturning a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), potentially becoming the first country to reverse legal protections against the practice for millions of women and girls worldwide.

In a parliamentary vote on Monday, politicians in the West African nation overwhelmingly supported a bill aimed at repealing a landmark 2015 ban on FGM, which imposed penalties of up to three years in prison for perpetrators.

Almameh Gibba, the legislator behind the bill, argued that the ban infringed on citizens’ rights to practice their cultural and religious beliefs in the predominantly Muslim country. He emphasized the importance of upholding religious loyalty and preserving cultural norms and values.

However, activists and rights organizations have strongly condemned the proposed legislation, warning that it would erode years of progress and jeopardize the country’s human rights reputation. Jaha Marie Dukureh, from Safe Hands for Girls, described FGM as “child abuse” and emphasized the need to protect women and girls from its harmful effects.

The debate over repealing the ban, initially implemented by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, has sparked division within the nation. The issue gained prominence in August when three women were fined for conducting FGM on infant girls, marking the first convictions under the law.

The bill will now undergo further scrutiny by a parliamentary committee before a final reading, a process expected to span three months. During this period, amendments to the measure may be proposed.

FGM, defined by UNICEF as the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons, poses significant health risks and infringes on the autonomy of girls and women. Despite global efforts to combat the practice, its prevalence remains high, particularly in African countries.

Rights groups fear that The Gambia’s potential reversal of the ban could set a dangerous precedent for women’s rights, potentially leading to the rollback of other protective measures in the region. They emphasize the importance of criminalization in combating FGM and advocate for the preservation of laws banning the practice in affected countries.